Many of you are aware that I am a member of Seido Juku karate, and have been since September of 2011. On the 20th of April, I went with my dojo to Honbu, the headquarters of the style of karate I follow. Honbu is in New York City, and I was there for two days, although there was only one day of training, much to my surprise and almost sadness.
When we got to Honbu, I was immediately struck by how much the members of Cayuga Lake Seido (the branch I belong to) stuck out from those who train at Honbu. It was like watching the difference between a beginner and one who has been training for their whole lives. Those who trained at Honbu more often were precise, clean, and had a feline grace that the students from Cayuga Lake couldn't match. The only ones who could were Senpai Mike, who has recently passed the test to become a black belt, and has spent much time training with Kaicho, the grandmaster, and Kyoshi Robin and Kyoshi Gail, our teachers at Cayuga Lake. Those who had been to Honbu before, too, also had traces of that grace that comes from learning from the creator of the style.
I do not mean to say that we were below par, though. But we were rough, and unpolished. Like a piece of rough turquoise compared to a cut and prepared gemstone. It was interesting to watch how the members of Cayuga Lake who had never come to Honbu before reacted to the physical rigor of the classes.
Many of the teenagers I train with at school do not try in classes. They view karate as an escape from gym class, and it shows in their attitudes and their form. It showed in their whining later in the day about how fast-paced the classes were, and how they couldn't understand the commands given to them. I felt bad for them, I really did. I felt bad that they couldn't enjoy the classes because they couldn't get past the challenges. Which isn't to say that the classes were easy for me. They most definitely weren't. I struggled, especially in the class led by Kaicho's son, Nidaime. I promoted to my current level recently, and as such, I'm not 100% sure of some of the things most yellow belts take for granted. And I struggled with them. But there was an element of fun and challenge to it that made the pain of muscle fatigue vanish.
The classes I attended were not all just physical ones. We also had the fortune to manage to make one of Kaicho's meditation classes, and to hear one of his meditation lectures. The lecture of choice was titled "Tan Ki, Tan Mei", which translates to "Short Temper, Short Life", something I find personally striking, as I have the tendency to react with a short temper to life's problems.
Many of you know that I do not do well in cities, that people crowding around me is one of the things that makes an inner animal's hackles rise. On the way back to the hotel we all stayed at, our bus passed near Times Square while it was nighttime. When I saw the neon lights, and their images seared themselves into my brain, I felt a little piece of myself curl up inside my mind and die; it was at that moment that I knew that I was not destined to be someone who found joy or comfort in the gaudy neon and the thrill of city life. I need to see the sky, feel a breeze that doesn't smell of death and sewers. I need to be in a place where I can walk and not be pressured and buffeted by an unending wave of humanity, all bent on personal destruction. But it was in that famed square that I found myself the next morning, despite my protests.
I had been under the impression that a second day of training was to be opened to students from my side of the lake as well as the other. I was sorely mistaken, and had to go to Times Square with the majority of the class. I would have much rather gone to a second day of training, muscle fatigue or no. I didn't find much in the way of joy walking the streets of NYC, only stress and the lurking fear that I was going to get lost in the crowd and swept away. I would have much preferred to go with Kyoshi Gail to the second day at Honbu, and I hope that next year, that will be an option for me to take.
Today, I did one of the things that most people associate with karate; breaking wooden boards. Today was the first time I did this, and I was just a lot terrified of breaking my hand or foot. However, once we (we being myself, Kyoshi Robin, Senpai Mike, and six others) were actually there, I realized that it wasn't as terrifying as I previously thought. I broke eight boards today, three with kicks, the rest with my hands. All in all, it was a good day.